SOLUTIONS: Chicago Teens Have Places to Go This Summer | The Journal of Chaz

Chicago teens have places to go this summer

Here’s a simple call-to-action for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and more: Ask a child or teenager what they do once they get out of school, then help they apply to one of the town’s many programs.

By Mary Ellen Caron, Mimi LeClair, Mary Ann Mahon-Huels

As we headed into the summer, the Chicago teens were once again getting a bad rap and paying a hefty price for it. It happens every year as the weather warms up and the school year heats up: some local youth, with no productive outlets, gather and make headlines.

Large gatherings downtown – such as the one that, sadly, led to a teenager being shot and killed in Millennium Park, allegedly by another teenager – are unacceptable. And sadly, they’re not surprising either.

While this happened before the pandemic, the situation is even worse now with additional risk factors.

Like some of us, teenagers want to get out of the house. Like us, they need a social connection. Add to that the growing mental health crisis among young people, with anxiety, depression, and suicide rates all rising – further rising financial and food insecurity in families due to the pandemic – and hard hoping it will be a peaceful summer for Chicago youth.

As longtime Chicago reporter Justin Kaufmann recently wrote in his column, “Chicago continues to tell teens where they can’t go. Maybe it’s time to tell them where they can.”

Bingo. Here we can all help.

Our organizations have, combined, more than 150 years of operating after school and summer programs for children and teens in Chicago. Every now and then, we see how with a little support – whether it’s a program, a caring teacher, or a simple help – young people open up, see their own value, and then developed.

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